At a recent workshop I was asked how I use social media to promote and market my work as a photographer. I had to think carefully about my response because I use social media primarily as a medium to help and inspire others, as well as to promote my workshops. Yet that is intrinsically tied to me as an individual.
Still, my daily use has changed dramatically over the last year, and especially the last few months.
It’s also especially relevant since so much photography is shared and consumed online these days. And if you want to market a business, I’d argue it’s worth having a good social media strategy.
This article has been in my “drafts” folder for some time, but a few recent articles made me revisit it and finally decide to share it with you. It’s also a coincidence that social media has been on the front page news, though I don’t think it’s going away any time soon.
I’m going to make some controversial points here, and perhaps you will disagree. That’s totally fine, because my goal is not to convince you of anything. I simply want to share a perspective of what works for me and my goals. You may find your goals are similar.
The Age of Distraction
I’ve grown to see social media as a potential black hole of distraction for me, one that I want to avoid. You don’t have to go very far to see people everywhere staring at their mobile screens like zombies, whether in a restaurant with friends (or their spouses,) at the playground with their children, or while hiking in a national park. I once photographed sunset on the shores of Jordan Pond in Acadia while a young couple stared at their Facebook feeds well into twilight.
For many it’s the first thing they engage with in the morning or the last at night before they go to sleep. And it remains an endless source of shallow entertainment throughout the day.
Numerous studies have shown that there is a significant cost to multi-tasking and subconscious distractions in general. The more you interrupt your concentration for these seemingly pleasurable distractions, the more you actually diminish your overall creative potential.
And all of us know how precarious creative moments can be, sometimes balanced on a knife’s edge between a true insight and a dead end. The more we participate in the attention economy, and in essence become the products of the companies that entice us with “click-bait,” the more we sacrifice our precious ability for deep work as Cal Newport so well examines in this great book.
I want to do deep work in the areas that matter to me, namely my creative pursuits. But most importantly, being the best father and husband I can be. And in all instances, I have found social media to be a subversive obstacle to each of these.
A Healthy Balance
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying it’s a loss-loss scenario. In fact, used judiciously, social media enables me to do what I enjoy most: helping others in their creative pursuits. Judicious use is the key, but so difficult since the services are specifically designed for anything but judicious use.
I cannot deny the many benefits of reaching many more people than ever before in human history. That for me is a privilege I do not want to trivialize or undervalue. I will continue to focus on Youtube as my preferred medium to share info and inspiration.
In fact, I’ve become a Youtube Red subscriber for this very reason. I’d rather use it without the ads and make it tool that gives me a bit more control over what I see and when. As for the others (Facebook, Twitter, etc,) I have an assistant that handles the actual posting based on what I provide, freeing me to focus on what provides the greatest value for me – making images, writing, and working with students.
The more focused I can be every day of my life, the more I can create and produce effectively. I want to spend as much of my time engaged with the things that matter to me, not what others think should matter to me.